The History of the Future

Simon J. James

in Maps of Utopia

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780199606597
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191738517 | DOI:
The History of the Future

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The scientific discoveries of the Victorian era enlarged the scope of fantastic fiction. Wells extrapolates from evolutionary theory, geology, temporal physics, and optics to imagine alternate forms of cultural production. Wells’s use of the fantastic does not constitute escapism, however. The irruption of the fantastic into an otherwise realistically narrated fictional world is a reminder that the indefinite passing of history will repeatedly threaten or displace humanity’s misplaced faith in its imagined superior position in the hierarchy of nature. Darwin’s formulation of the theory of evolution, and Wells’s imagining of fictional possibilities, constitute both an opportunity and a warning for humankind: Wells repeatedly insists on the impermanence of the status quo. This chapter also notes the frequency of images of reading and writing in Wells’s fiction: numerous texts include images of defaced or ineffective books and other artworks.

Keywords: science fiction; scientific romance; language; fantastic; science and literature; dystopia; evolution

Chapter.  19323 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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